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Research

Participate in a research project

High quality research is essential to enable us to develop better understanding of autism and to develop better interventions in the future.

Why should you get involved?

Researchers are always looking for participants for their projects – the more participants, the greater the chances of meaningful results that reflect the wide range of issues that people on the autism spectrum and their families face. So get involved where you can – it will help improve our knowledge and it may benefit you!

Disclaimer: Autism Queensland aims to support research that promises to inform future directions of services for individuals on the spectrum and their families. Although we screen each project before advertising, we do not necessarily endorse the views, activities or organisations of researchers.

Researchers

If you would like to have your project listed on our site, please read Advertise a Research Project below.


Projects seeking participants

Contact details of all researchers are provided for each of our projects. If you are interested in participating in a study please click on those of the following you believe will be of interest. This list is updated regularly and includes research being undertaken externally and by Autism Queensland.

Aspirations Through Time: The Year 10 transition planning experience of Queensland students on the autism spectrum

Participants required:
  1. Students who will be in Year 10 in 2021 in a mainstream school in Queensland and who are on the autism spectrum.
  2. Their parent/caregivers
  3. A staff member in their school – note that school staff will only be contacted with the family’s permission.
Project description:

In Australia, young people on the autism spectrum often experience higher unemployment rates and lower educational achievement than their peers. The purpose of this longitudinal case study is to investigate the transition planning experiences of students on the autism spectrum during senior schooling in Queensland. Students will be asked to complete career planning activities/interview and questionnaires, while parents and school staff will be interviewed.

Access the survey

Benefit to participants:

It is hoped that this study will provide important insights on how to better support the transition planning for students on the spectrum. In turn, this may lead to more positive long-term outcomes for young people on the autism spectrum. Students who choose to participate will receive a $15 voucher for each interview.

Contact 

Lara Maia-Pike
E. l.maiapike@hdr.qut.edu.au

Prof Linda Graham
E. linda.graham@qut.edu.au
P. 07 3138 3738

The Australian Autism Biobank Study

Participants required:
  • Children aged 2-17 years who are on the Autism Spectrum and their siblings.
  • Children aged 2-17 years with no diagnosis of Autism Spectrum in the Family as our Control population.
Project description:

The Australian Autism Biobank Study is now recruiting families who may be interested in participating. The biobank is a National Study and in Queensland is a joint partnership between the Autism CRC, Mater Research Institute and Children’s Health Queensland. The aim of the biobank is to collect detailed information on Australian children with autism and their families.

Participation in the study involves the completion of questionnaires about the child and family, a clinical assessment where the child is asked to participate in various child-friendly games and activities, and the collection of biological samples, including a blood sample, from the child and their family.

Benefit to participants:

While families may not benefit directly from this study, this data will be used to facilitate our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as for earlier and more accurate diagnosis of ASD in children.

The creation of the Australian Autism Biobank is likely to make a significant contribution to the understanding of ASD etiology. A clearer understanding of the range of genetic and environmental variations that contribute to the occurrence of ASD may provide added insight into the regulation of brain development, which, in turn may open up opportunities for developing more effective treatment of the condition. Significant developments in our understanding of what causes ASD can only be made by studying large numbers of affected individuals. The creation of the Australian Autism Biobank is an essential first step in obtaining sufficient data, which may eventually lead to significant gains in our knowledge of how to identify, diagnose and treat people with ASD.

Please visit the Biobank website for more information.

To participate in the Queensland site of the Australian Autism Biobank, or for more information about this study, please contact the Autism Biobank Research Team:
P. 0435 860 506
E. autism.biobank@mater.uq.edu.au

Combined Gut-brain Treatment for Children with Autism

Participants Required:

Children with autism and gut issues, aged 5-10 years.

Description of Project:

Background: Children with autism are four (4) times more likely to suffer with gut issues (tummy and bowel problems) than children without autism.  Research has linked both gut issues and autism to changes within the two-way communication network called the gut-brain axis.  Gut issues are also linked to increased severity of autistic behaviours and independently to anxiety/depression.  Given the two-way nature of the gut-brain axis, a combined, two-way treatment approach may be beneficial (i.e. a gut-based and brain-based treatment approach used together).

Prebiotics (fibre) and probiotics (beneficial gut bacteria) are one gut-based approach that has the potential to help normalise gut-brain communication by changing the balance of gut bacteria (gut microbiome).  Research has shown that both prebiotic and probiotic supplementation have been able to reduce gut symptoms in children with and without autism and in some cases has also reduced autism-associated behaviours.  One the other hand, a novel brain-based approach, gut-directed hypnotherapy, has shown success at reducing gut symptoms and pain in children without autism.  While gut-directed hypnotherapy has not yet been studied in children with autism, it provides a non-invasive, client-led approach that uses the child’s unique strengths to help return the gut to normal functioning.

Aim:  To reduce gut issues in children with autism, with possible improvements in autism severity and anxiety scores.

Hypothesis: A combined gut-brain approach using a synbiotic (prebiotic + probiotic) and gut-directed hypnotherapy will be more effective than either a gut-based (synbiotic) or brain-based (gut-directed hypnotherapy) approach alone at reducing the severity of gut symptoms in children with autism.

Study Design:  This study is a randomised clinical trial.  If your child is enrolled, they will be randomly allocated to one of three 12-week treatment intervention groups: 1) synbiotic; 2) gut-directed hypnotherapy; or 3) synbiotic + gut-directed hypnotherapy.  You and your child will be required to complete questionnaires and stool samples at the start and end of the 12-week period.  There will also be a follow-up at week 24 to assess if any improvements have been maintained.

Benefits to Participants:

We cannot promise your child will receive a benefit from participating in this study. The main potential benefit from this study is reduced tummy/bowel symptoms and/or improved stool consistency.  Other possible benefits include improved balance of “good” and “bad” gut bacteria, reduced anxiety/stress levels and reduced autism severity scores.

Contact Details:

E. leanne.mitchell@uq.edu.au
P. 0414 689 850

This research is part of the Doctoral degree of Mrs Leanne Mitchell (Principal Investigator) and is sponsored by the University of Queensland.

Coping Strategies used by Adolescents with Autism

Participants required:

Adolescents with autism will be asked to complete an online survey asking about coping strategies used, life events experienced in the past year (good and bad), and their current anxiety and depression symptoms.

Parents of adolescents with autism will be asked to complete an online survey about their child’s autism and depression symptoms. Teachers of adolescents with autism will be asked to complete an online survey about their student’s depression symptoms.

Project description:

We do not have a good understanding of how people with autism cope with life events (both good and bad). This means that helpers (e.g., counsellors, psychologists) may not know what strategies are useful or not useful to suggest when young people with autism are going through difficult times.

Parent Survey link

A link for adolescents to complete their survey separately will be emailed after their parent submits their survey responses.

Benefit to participants:

By participating in this study, we will gain a better understanding of the most common ways of coping that young people with autism use. This information can be shared with helpers so that they can provide effective strategies and interventions when young people with autism are feeling worried, sad or anxious.

Contact Details:

Dr Nerelie Freeman
E. nerelie.freeman@monash.edu
P. (03) 9905-4391

Do actions speak louder than words? Parent perspectives on when gesture helps or hinders learning and outcomes for children with autism

Participants required:

Parents of children (aged 5-12 years old) with or without autism.

Project description:

Children on the autism spectrum often perform academically lower than their IQ matched peers, but to date, no research explains why this is. We know that gestures benefit learning in typically developing children, and emerging evidence suggests that gestures may also benefit learning in children on the autism spectrum. What is less understood, however, is when gestures benefit learning in children on the autism spectrum most. In this study, we would like to ask parents of children on the autism spectrum and parents of typically developing children for their perspectives on whether, when, and how gestures benefit their child’s learning. Results will guide research into gesture-based interventions that may enhance academic achievement in children on the autism spectrum.

There are 2 stages to this study:

1)    Completion of online questionnaires; and
2)    Completion of an online interview conducted over zoom, lasting up to 1-hour.

If you decide to take part in the interview, you will be asked questions about your perspectives on a) whether gestures are beneficial to your child’s learning and understanding, b) when you perceive gestures to be beneficial to your child’s learning and understanding, and c) how you think gestures benefit your child’s learning and understanding.

Survey Link

Benefit to participants:

Our findings will be circulated via a brief summary on social media and an overall summary feedback report will be emailed to you. If you wish to receive copies of any academic publications arising from the project, you may email the project coordinator and request to be sent a copy of the publication(s) when they are available.

Contact Details:

Dr Nicole Dargue
E. n.dargue@griffith.edu.au
P. 07 3382 1515

Developing and Testing a Functional Assessment for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Participants Required:

We are looking for 120 people to complete a new self-report or proxy-report assessment of functioning, as well as some other, similar assessments. These people can be:

  • Adults or adolescents (aged 13 years or older) on the autism spectrum
  • Caregiver or support person of someone on the autism spectrum*

*Caregiver is used in this research in a broad sense to cover parents, guardians, spouses, siblings, children or friends who provide support to an individual on the autism spectrum.

Project Description:

Background:
The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is a World Health Organisation framework that can be used to measure health and disability. The ICF includes over 1600 categories (or codes) describing functioning across different areas (Body Functions and Structures, Activities and Participation, and Environmental Factors). Because the ICF is made up of so many codes, there are also shortlists of these codes that are relevant to certain health conditions. These are called the ICF Core Sets. An assessment of functioning tool based on the ICF Core Sets for autism has been created. This assessment tool is designed for health professionals, but we have recently developed proxy- and self-report versions of the assessment. We expect these new versions will give us some more information about what individuals on the autism spectrum and their parents/caregivers believe can help or hinder the functional abilities of someone on the spectrum.

Aims:
To test the new proxy- and self-report versions of the assessment of functioning tool based on the ICF Core Sets for autism and find out what people think of it, compared to others they have done.

Methodology:
You will be asked to complete a series of assessments online, including the ICF assessment tool. These assessments will ask you questions about how easy or hard it is for the person on the autism spectrum to do certain activities, what supports make these activities easier, and what things make them harder. There will also be questions about medical and developmental history, strengths, family, and quality of life. This will take approximately 2.5 – 3 hours. You will be able to save the survey and come back to it so you do not have to finish it all in one block of time.

Access the survey

Benefits to Participants:

You will be provided with a report of the assessment results, describing your or your family member’s functioning, strengths and support needs. You may also appreciate having the opportunity to be involved in developing an assessment that may be used in future to assess the level of functioning of individuals on the autism spectrum.

As a token of appreciation, we will give you a gift voucher worth $30 for taking part in the online survey. You will be given a second voucher worth $15 for completing the feedback survey and repeating the ICF assessment tool two weeks later.

For more information:

Maya Hayden-Evans
E. Maya.hayden-evans@postgrad.curtin.edu.au

ENACT: Environmental Enrichment for infants: parenting with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Participants Required:

We are looking to recruit pregnant women who have an older child diagnosed with ASD or either parent is diagnosed with ASD.  This is so that the intervention can commence antenatally or very early in the neonatal period.

For participants to be included in this study they must meet the following inclusion criteria:

(1) the infant’s mother must agree to the assessment requirements of the study;

(2) the infant must have one or more biological siblings diagnosed with ASD, or a biological parent (mother or father) diagnosed with ASD; and

(3) As ENACT uses integrated web-based delivery, parents are required to have reliable internet access at home (e.g. ADSL) and must be committed to maintaining internet access for the duration of the study.

The study will exclude potential participants in the case of:

(1) the parents having insufficient English to complete the assessment requirements; or

(2) families who identify at recruitment that they are unwilling to return for the outcome assessments at 6 months and 12 months of age.

(3) infants with a known chromosomal or neurological condition prior to study enrolment

Project Description:

Background: Infant siblings of older children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at an increased risk of a diagnosis of ASD. From 6-12 months of age there are prodromal symptoms of ASD in the domains of motor skills, motor planning, visual attention, visual perception and affect regulation. This can impact on parent-infant interaction and language, social and cognitive development. In addition, mothers of infants at risk of ASD are at risk of poorer mental health when compared to the general population due to the complexity of managing ASD. Currently, there are no trials that have been conducted with infants at risk of ASD younger than six months of age.

Aims: The aim of this research is to test the efficacy of an innovative early intervention, ENACT, for families of infants at risk of ASD through a randomised controlled trial with ENACT compared to care as usual, and testing the effect of the intervention in improving the parent-child relationship and infant developmental outcomes.

Benefits to Participants:

There are currently no evidence-based interventions available to parent of infants younger than 6 months of age who are at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Families who are randomised to the intervention group will get early access to a novel intervention program that aims to enrich the life of their family. Parents will also play a role in refining the content of the program. All families will get comprehensive developmental assessments at the conclusion of the study, when their baby is 12 months old.  Families will receive a copy of this report.

Access project

For more information:

Miss Kavindri Kulasinghe or Dr Andrea McGlade

(07) 3069 7547 or enact.qcprrc@uq.edu.au

MIND the Vax Gap

Participants required:

Parents of children:

  • aged under 18 years
  • who have a diagnosis of autism
Description of project:

We know that getting children vaccinated may not always be easy, and many factors can affect parents’ decisions about vaccination.

In this project, we want to learn more about what factors affect vaccine uptake for children diagnosed with autism and their siblings. We also want to find out what concerns parents might have about getting their children vaccinated.

We hope this information will help us develop better ways to support parents to make their vaccination decisions and access vaccination services more easily.

As a parent of a child with autism, you will be asked to:

  • Complete one 10-15 minute online survey

OPTIONAL: participate in one interview

Parent Survey Link

Benefit to participants:

Our aim is to gain a better understanding of the vaccination views and experiences of parents of children with autism. We hope to use this information to design resources and strategies to make it easier for immunisation providers to support parents of children with autism in Australia. We are doing this study for research purposes. This means that the study will not directly benefit you or your child. If you complete the survey, you will go into the draw to win a $75 gift card.

Contact details:

Dr Jessica Kaufman
E. MINDproject@mcri.edu.au
P. (03) 9345 4890

Researchers

If you would like to have your project listed on our site, please click here.

For more information please contact the Research Team